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Piab's piCOBOT® lifting various items

When the cobots go marching in…

Date 10/12/2018

Piab wants to be in that number. The introduction of piCOBOT®, a cleverly equipped plug-and-play extension to the cobot arm, featuring Piab’s signature vacuum technology, is designed to do just that.

Heralding an era of genuine collaboration between humans and machines, cobots, or collaborative robots, are being welcomed into more and more workplaces. Invented in 1996 by two professors at Northwestern University in the US, cobots are the latest generation of robotic systems that can interact physically with humans in a shared workplace. Whereas conventional robots are designed to work independently, often behind safety bars or in cages so as not to accidently injure human workers, cobots are equipped with sensors and vision technology enabling them to work safely alongside humans.

Cobots are also light-weight, flexible and mobile, allowing them to be moved within factories or processing units. Easy to re-programme, they will work wherever they are needed. With constantly dropping price-tags sealing their increased popularity, they are becoming a familiar sight in many industrial settings where they can be handled or guided by non-robotics specialists. Not surprisingly, market analysts are predicting a meteoric growth in this segment of the robotics market.

Enter piCOBOT®

Piab is entering into this market with their signature vacuum technology and their philosophy of providing customers with generic, energy efficient, flexible and user-friendly automation tools. Designed to be fitted to the end of any type of cobot arm, piCOBOT® is a re-packaged version of the company’s flagship vacuum generator piCOMPACT®, combined with adjustable and flexible grippers that can be fitted with a variety of different suction cups. 

“piCOBOT® is a true plug-and-play cobot end-tool that is genuinely simple to use even for novices. We have selected features that enable energy-optimised and safe operation,” says Josef Karbassi, Vice President of Piab’s Automation Division.

A certified co-worker

Certified by Universal Robots, one of the pioneers of cobot development, Piab’s piCOBOT® is designed to act as a flexible co-worker in a variety of production, packaging or assembly lines. Adaptable, powerful and light-weight, it really offers the ideal extra “pair of hands”.

Its 97-142 mm wide gripper arms can be tilted +/- 15 degrees, providing excellent reach, and fitted onto the grippers are Piab’s specialist suction cups, acting as the cobot’s hands.

With index finger action

“Correctly configured with an integrated push-pin, piCOBOT® can, for instance, emulate an index finger, able to push a button or open a security valve or locking mechanism,” explains Josef Karbassi.

However, when such delicate “index finger action” is no longer needed, the piCOBOT® can quickly be adapted for tasks of a more robust nature, such as gripping and packing bags or lifting, moving and palletising cardboard boxes. Such handling also represents the kind of tasks for which Piab’s COAX® vacuum ejector technology is perfectly suited.

Offering sensible options

The piCOBOT® can be fitted with either one or two suction cups, depending on what task it is required to perform. A dedicated sense valve ensures safe operation regardless of which of these options is used and enables operators to switch between the two optional modes (single or double object picking), easily adapting the gripper when necessary.

Offered as a development kit, piCOBOT® comprises a vacuum pump unit, a gripper unit and two suction cups.

“For the standard piCOBOT® kit, we have chosen four different sets of suction cups that we think will be suitable for a variety of tasks. However, our customers will also be able to choose freely from our extensive range of suction cups in order to tailor piCOBOT® to their own specific applications,” says Josef Karbassi.

In a compact format

The piCOBOT® has been carefully designed to be as small as possible. Its compact format allows it to be used in space-restricted areas, and to squeeze into narrow corridors or tight corners. A low build height (69mm) is another distinguishing feature that will appeal to many small companies with limited space.

“In addition, we have made sure that the weight of piCOBOT® is very low (510g for piCOBOT® and 210g for the gripper), considerably lower than other similar cobot equipment offered by our competitors,” promises Josef Karbassi.

For maximum payload

The low weight of piCOBOT® results in minimum weight addition, thus enabling maximum payload capacity for the cobot. Powerful and strong for its size, piCOBOT® is designed to be able to lift items weighing up to 7 kg.

Promoting productivity

In terms of productivity, human-robot teams are hard to beat. Researchers studying human-machine interaction at the German carmaker BMW recently determined that such teams were about 85 percent more productive than either alone. Safe enough to be released from traditional robot cages, cobots are able to deliver on that promise. Soft design lines enable them to work in close contact with their human teammates, avoiding any risk of injury due to collisions.

Further extending these soft design lines, piCOBOT® has been developed to safely assist cobots collaborating with human workers in many different industries, promoting their productivity.

“piCOBOT® is ready to start collaborating with your human and cobot workers,” states Josef Karbassi.



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